DIY : Coffee Roasting – Kevin Wang – Medium
TL;DR — I roasted coffee for the first time and got all the feels.
Tuesday, April 17th: I roasted my first batch of coffee, something I’ve been wanting to do since my buddy, Rick Rosato, first introduced me to “specialty coffee” back in 2013. 5 years later, 3 of which actually working in the industry and most of that using nordic coffee roasters such as The Barn and Tim Wendelboe, I roasted my first batch by myself.
I just received my Ikawa Pro Roaster the same day (sure you can argue this is not roasting because a computer is doing the work), and grabbed a 3lb bag of random garbage-quality Colombian green coffee beans from Amazon that I expected to blow through while getting up to speed with the roaster. There were coffee borer holes in a bunch of the beans, and some are broken and rotten. Supposedly it had a cupping score of 85 (out of 100) as marked on the bag. Now I’m not a coffee buyer or QC expert, but that score was pretty questionable. So I dose out my first 50 gram batch of un-roasted beans and hand-sort out all the defective ones. With the roaster’s controller app on my phone, I pulled up Tim Wendelboe’s Finca Tamana template roast curve and got to the roasting.
Looking back on the actual roasting itself, it was very hands-free so it did not leave much of a lasting impression. Not nearly as much as the cupping (a standardized procedure for coffee roasters and quality control experts to taste and grade coffee).
So fast forward a little bit. Beans are brown and roasted and waiting as I look around my kitchen. Nothing with my setup is ideal yet, I know I should wait a few days before cupping roasted coffee (or should I?), but I’m like a kid on Christmas Day here. I muster up what I can for a super-impromptu cupping setup: grinder setting is a total guess, no refractometer, water using a Pür drinking water filter, everything I remember from cupping at Budin and Blue Bottle over two years ago is a total blur — is the coffee:water ratio 11:180g or 12:200g? I don’t know, I’ll refigure it out later.
For the first 50 gram batch, I proceed as such:
Grind — Smell dry aroma — Pour hot water — Smell wet aroma — Wait 4 minutes— Break crust and smell aroma — Skim the foam — Wait for it to cool — Slurp — Spit — Repeat many times.
In my head, I struggled to recall all the coffee terminology I could and tried to imagine myself as if I were in a lab, cupping with some colleagues and friends. The coffee was very underdeveloped, grassy, some hidden pleasing acidity as the coffee cools. I quickly ended it there and my mind was already jumping to “What can I do differently for the second batch to make it better?” Not really having much experience or knowdledge, I edit the curve by raising ending temperature a few degrees… like 7ºC? And extending the time by almost 30 seconds. Fast forward over the hands-free roasting and right back to cupping.
At first slurp I was sort of shocked, “Oh what?! It’s roasty as f$%@!” In my mind, the semi-arbitrary changes I had made were intended to be minimal, but I guess I was totally oblivious as they had quite a drastic impact. All of a sudden, I started to think about all the possibilities, all the different variables and factors around coffee roasting, within and beyond my control. It was as if my brain was unraveling… and I started to get a glimpse of the truth like Edward in the Fullmetal Alchemist. I got so excited… so excited that I started to type up this long, “thing”.
Looking forward and what steps I want to take next, I will be expecting green coffee from Nordic Approach, as I really I just don’t have patience to work with random coffee of negligible quality. I need to do considerably more research on roasting, as well as play with more roast curves/profiles on my roaster. My cupping protocols need to be refreshed, and set up might need a revamping. I so very much want to share this with friends so I’m already quite stressed about scalability.
Baby steps for now.